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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: What's in a word?

Posted July 19, 2020 8:13 p.m. EDT

WRAL reporter Amanda Lamb with her daughters

As a writer, I have always been curious about the origins of words, specifically, the Latin root of each word. For the most part, if you understand the meaning of the Latin portion of a word you can figure out just about any word in the English language even if you have never seen it before. When I read a book and find a word I don’t know, I immediately look it up and discover not only the meaning, but what each individual part of the word represents.

I recently looked up the word “pandem” and discovered it is a conjugation of the Latin verb “pando” which means to “spread,” “open," “unfold” or “expand.” This makes sense in the context of “pandemic” and in the context of a closely related word, “pandemonium.” I would argue that the pandemic has caused pandemonium in our world. Neither of these words has a positive connotation. I would argue that before 2020 few of us had ever uttered the word “pandemic.”

Sometimes, when we don’t understand something, its easier to try and figure it out by examining it in a clinical, academic way, versus taking an emotional approach. Like most people, I’m trying to get a handle on why our world has suddenly been turned upside down by COVID-19.

For children, teenagers and young adults, this understanding is even hard to grasp and cope with. Unlike adults, they don’t have the tools to handle their anger, fear and anxiety over the isolation they have experienced in the past few months. Frankly, a lot of us adults don’t have those coping skills either given the length of time of the pandemic so far with no end in sight.

Put it simply, most of us can operate in crisis mode for a short period of time, but the longer the crisis lasts, the shorter our fuses become.

So, I tried to find a positive word with “pandem” in it, and I was not able to locate any. Apparently, it’s pretty clearly linked to negative situations. My hope is that at some point “pandemic” will no longer be something we use in everyday conversation, but a word relegated to the history books.

Someday, our grandchildren will ask us: “Where were you during the pandemic of 2020. Do you remember it?”

“I sure do, I sure do.”

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.